Four keys to Jimmie Johnson's heroic victory in Fontana
There was more fantastic racing Sunday afternoon in sunny Southern California, where Jimmie Johnson held off Kevin Harvick to win the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in the industrial town of Fontana.
It was the sixth victory at ACS for Johnson, the all-time winner at the track..
The four keys to victory on this day were pretty straightforward.
4. TIRE MANAGEMENT -- Goodyear recommends minimum air pressures for the tire, but NASCAR does not enforce those recommendations. Teams like to run pressures that are below the Goodyear minimums because lower air pressures mean better grip and faster laps times.
But lower air pressures also cause the tires to wear much more quickly and there were a number of cars at ACS that had tire issues at one point or another, including Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Chris Buescher, among others. Too low air pressures were blamed for the majority of the problems.
3. PIT PERFECTLY -- Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin all had very fast race cars and the all got pit-road penalties, which doomed their respective chances of winning. Would one of them have won had they not gotten penalties? Maybe, maybe not. But getting a penalty all but guaranteed they wouldn't win.
2. RESTARTS, RESTARTS, RESTARTS -- I can't emphasize this enough. So many races these days are won and lost on restarts, and this time it was Harvick who made a great restart on the penultimate caution. With a tremendous six-way battle for the lead, with about 40 laps to go, Harvick muscled through a field of tough competitors to put the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet out in front.
But on the final restart, it was Johnson who outmuscled Harvick to score his 77th career victory on his home track.
1. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER -- Combine a championship driver, crew chief and team along with a fast race car and you've got a winning package, which is exactly what Johnson has with Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. And, oh yeah, Johnson got to dress up as Superman this week, which was just perfect for the circumstances.